Early on in “Northern Lights/Southern Cross,” Kevin Kling jokes that the world can be divided into two types of people: “Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t.” That type of bifurcation applies to Kling’s own life — for him, there is the time before a devastating motorcycle accident, and the years after. Here, however, Kling looks at the moments in the balance between life and death. While his character lies in a coma in the hospital, Kling takes a spirit journey, guided by the traditions of the native people of North America and Australia.
There’s a lot to unpack in the hourlong show, subtitled “Tales from the Other Side of the World” and now running at the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater. It was birthed from an exchange between Interact, a Twin Cities company that specializes in art by the disabled, and the similarly minded Tutti Ensemble, from South Australia. The exchange bridged the two worlds, and Kling’s story fits in perfectly with these themes.
The show is stuffed with ideas, music, movement, ritual and stories. It’s a heady brew, but one grounded by Kling’s self-deprecating humor. In the show, Kling plays Oki, a northern Minnesotan who, on a journey one morning for some ice, crashes his motorcycle. Now in a deep coma, Oki travels to a place between life and death, where he is guided by an Australian Aboriginal, Tarnda, and a trio of Ojibwa spirits. As they travel together, the stories that define the different people intertwine more and more, until it is hard to see where one begins and another ends.
This cross-breeding makes for some amazing moments, from inspired clowning by members of Interact to places where traditional Native American dances are performed to the sound of drumming, didgeridoo and members of the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir.
In fact, it’s all a bit overwhelming, even a day after seeing it. The sensory and spiritual overload are intentional, I think; a way to bring not just the beauty of these traditions to the audience, but also the confusion felt by so many groups represented in the modern world. At the end, Kling has finished one part of his journey but is embarking on a longer, more difficult path. There’s a sense that the path has been made clearer by the guiding light of the stars in the sky; and that if it’s a journey any of us need to take, we can find our guides as well.
“Northern Lights/Southern Cross” runs through Nov. 8 at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Tickets are $18 to $30. For information and tickets, call 612-377-2224 or visit online.